The novelist Thomas Wolfe coined the famous adage "you can't go home again." The members of Arcade Fire know this, because they tried. But when memories of youth stem from suburbs constructed for convenience, not permanence, those childhood memories become that much harder to trace.
Montreal's Arcade Fire explored the theme of neighborhoods on their 2004 breakthrough album Funeral (chosen by Rolling Stone as the #1 album of the '00s). In 2009, during a year off after a world tour for 2007's Neon Bible, frontman Win Butler received an email from an old friend he grew up with in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. "He sent us a picture of him with his daughter on his shoulders at the mall around the corner from where we lived," says Win, "and the combination of seeing this familiar place and seeing my friend with his child brought back a lot of feeling from that time. I found myself trying to remember the town that we grew up in and trying to retrace as much as I could remember."
At the same time, other band members of a similarly suburban origin across Canada had revisited their childhood environs and, in some cases, found there was not much left: buildings were boarded up, if they still existed at all; new roads and rivers had magically appeared, altering the landscape that now only existed in faded photographs. When they reconvened, the first song they wrote was The Suburbs' title track.